Big Blue goes to Melbourne
The dynamic duo of Archie Thompson and Marco Rojas have vaulted Melbourne Victory up to second on the Hyundai A-League as the home side romped to a 3-1 win over a nine-man Sydney FC at AAMI Park.
The irrepressible Rojas earned an own goal in the first half and scored one of his own in the second while Thompson slotted the other as Victory ended Sydney's two-match winning run.
Joel Griffiths scored a consolation goal for the Sky Blues on 75 minutes, but by then the damage had been done, with Tiago Calvano sent off for a second bookable offence on 60 minutes, while Brazilian compatriot Fabio followed suit in injury time.
Victory move above Adelaide into second spot ahead of a crucial run of games against the other top five teams starting with the Melbourne Derby next Saturday against the Heart.
Sydney, looking for their first hat-trick of wins in three-and-a-half years, missed their chance to move into the top six after a display that failed to live up to the hype built by Alessandro del Piero's first appearance in Melbourne.
Victory's dominance was established early on with Mark Milligan and Leigh Broxham both firing wide before a desperate intervention from Rhyan Grant denied Rojas a clear shot on goal inside the first ten minutes.
Sydney's first meaningful attack came via Del Piero, who earned a dubious free kick on the edge of the box 12 minutes in, but hit his free kick straight at Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe.
Victory were building a case for an opening goal with Thompson and Rojas both squandering further chances and finally got their reward when Sydney briefly went down to 10 men.
Brett Emerton left the pitch with a hamstring injury and before substitute Blake Powell could get on, Rojas had cut a swathe through the Sky Blues midfield and rifled a low flat shot which had deflected off Sebastian Ryall past Vedran Janjetovic and into the net
While the conspiring circumstances were unfortunate for Sydney, the lead was no more than Melbourne deserved after a dominant first half hour.
While Sydney were able to hurry the Melbourne defence later in the half, they produced nothing to really worry Coe, who saw Powell's shot hit straight at him and Del Piero fail to hit the mark late.
The match changed in nature after the break as six bookings and just two shots at goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half would indicate.
The constant niggle saw Tiago, who had been booked in the first half, collect Broxham with a forearm, giving Chris Beath little option but to produce a second yellow and leave the visitors a man down for the final 30 minutes.
The second killer blow for Sydney came on 66 minutes when Joel Griffiths was put through on Coe, but he failed to force the keeper to save.
And then less than a minute later, the game was all but over as Marcos Flores linked up with Billy Celeski, whose slide rule pass set Thompson through on goal and the veteran striker made no mistake.
Rojas' pace and industry saw him rewarded with a second goal on 72 minutes, as he again profited from a deflection, this time from Adam Griffiths, to make in 3-0.
Joel Griffiths' well-taken strike on 75 minutes couldn't make up for his early profligacy, but it did lift his team, who had the better of the last 15 minutes,
Del Piero's influence on the game grew, and he picked out Grant at the far post, but he couldn't beat Coe with the header.
Fabio's repeated fouling saw the former Victory man become the second player sent to the stands as the Sky Blues night ended in disaster, with two important defenders missing for next week's match against Newcastle.
Melbourne Victory 3 (OG 24, Rojas 72, Thompson 67)
Sydney FC 1 (Griffiths 75)
Bet365.com Man of the Match: Mark Miligan He may lack the magic of Rojas, Thompson or Flores but the midfielder could well be Victory's most influential player.
Crowd: 26,882 at AAMI Park